NPA Press Release
New York Follows
California to Ban Prescription Pesticide Lindane for Lice and
NY State proposes legislation
banning the sale, use, and prescription of lindane. Assemblyman
Harvey Weisenberg introduces bill that would prohibit any lice or
scabies treatment product from containing the pesticide Lindane.
February 9, 2004 -- Bill A008628
filed in the state of New York proposes to amend the public
health law to ban the sale, use, and prescription of any
product containing the substance commonly known as lindane,
used for the treatment of lice or scabies in humans, from
containing the pesticide.
The provision states, "Lindane is the working ingredient in
over 2 million prescriptions for shampoos and creams meant to
control head lice and scabies and that these prescriptions are
issued to children, pregnant women and young mothers." Lindane
has been shown to damage the liver, kidney, nervous and immune
systems of laboratory animals. It adds that there are more
effective and less toxic ways available for the control of
Also included is reference to lindane as a man made pesticide
that has been categorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutant,
meaning that it lingers for a long period in the environment,
moves up the food chain and is highly toxic to humans and
wildlife. If finds that the main source of lindane in sewers
is from treatment of head lice and scabies and that a single
treatment of lindane pollutes 6 million gallons of water.
The bill reports lindane as a carcinogen, one that can cause
seizures or even death when absorbed through the skin. In the
past few years, over 500 cases of adverse impacts from
lindane-containing products have been reported.
The National Pediculosis Association (NPA), a non profit
agency, directs parents, health care professionals and child
care providers to safer head lice control options via a
standardized prevention approach focusing on routine
screening, early detection and thorough manual removal of lice
The NPA promotes this as the rational strategy over chasing
lice with pesticides that offer more risk than benefit and
have a well-documented history of lice resistance and failure.
The agency says prevention isn't just about stopping head
lice. It is also about protecting children from unnecessary
and potentially harmful exposures to pesticides such as
lindane or malathion.
The NPA emphasizes the fact that none of the available
chemical treatments are 100% effective, and that manual
removal of lice and nits remains the most critical component
to successful treatment. Hence the slogan, "If you don't get 'em
out, you've still got 'em."
The NPA says treatment for scabies is more challenging as it
is often difficult to obtain a definitive diagnostic workup
for scabies. The result is guesswork and therapeutic trials.
included off-label use of Ivermectin, an antibiotic indicated
for cattle worms and those who suffer with River Blindness.
Ivermectin for scabies appears too risky given the growing
number of adverse event reports related to it use, especially
among the elderly where deaths associated with Ivermectin
prompted a 1997 warning in the medical literature that it not
be used at all.
Yet despite the adverse impact of the pesticide lindane and
the availability of better options, the use of
lindane-containing shampoos and creams continues to be
permitted by prescription.
Research conducted by the Los Angeles County Sanitation
District (LACSD) found lindane to be particularly toxic to
their water. This realization was the impetus for what
eventually became California's state-wide ban.
Senior engineer Ann Heil was at the helm of the LACSD research
effort and found that after use, lindane shampoos and creams
and residue rinsed off in the sink or shower made its way
through the sewer to a wastewater treatment plant.
Since lindane is not removed well in wastewater treatment
plants, it passes through to downstream rivers, lakes or the
LACSD and the NPA received an EPA grant to join forces to
educate the community about the hazards of lindane. The
project was so successful that the Sanitation District of Los
Angeles County, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, and
the National Pediculosis Association were given the nation's
most honored pollution prevention award.
The program targeted those parties who either treat or provide
advice on the treatment of lice and scabies: doctors,
hospitals, pharmacies, school nurses, day care centers,
hospitals, and correctional institutions.
It was the first major program to convince physicians to
change the medications they prescribe based on environmental
Average lindane concentrations dropped 50% in the Long Beach
and Burbank outreach areas within the first year. A bill to
ban the medical uses of Lindane was passed in the California
legislature as a direct result of the Lindane Usage Reduction
The NPA says environmentalists and child advocates alike are
elated about New York's lindane Bill, but cautions New Yorkers
not to replace one poison with another.
As soon as word of a lindane ban in California became known,
industry began positioning malathion (an organophosphate
pesticide) as lindane's replacement for the state's formulary.
Marketing information for malathion makes it appear that
malathion is an acceptable alternative to lindane, although
the malathion product's own
has warnings to indicate otherwise.
many health and safety problems with malathion according to National Resources Defense Council.
Jennifer Sass, PhD, a senior scientist with NRDC and an expert
on the toxicity of malathion has written extensively on the
lack of available safety data and malathion's own potential
for serious negative effects on human health and the
The Bill states that lindane is a known blood poison. In many
case reports, lindane exposure from recommended dosages has
resulted in adverse events such as blood diseases including
aplastic anemia and leukemia.
Lindane is well known as a neurotoxin. Treatment with lindane
has resulted in vomiting, seizures, brain damage, spontaneous
abortion, learning problems and epilepsy. Adverse effects have
resulted from recommended dosages of this product.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all
pharmaceutical products, lindane included. Only recently did
the FDA put a black box warning on lindane. Up until this
warning the FDA had taken very little action to inform
patients of the acute as well as long term effects of exposure
The Agency For Toxic Substances and Drug Registry ranks
lindane 33 out of 275 other substances on its Priority List of
Hazardous Substances and the Environmental Protection Agency
has severely restricted the use of lindane as an agricultural
pesticide due to lindane's adverse health effects.
For detailed information on lindane visit
For help with obtaining non-chemical alternatives to
pesticides for head lice visit
For more information on NY Bill A008628 to ban lindane contact
Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg's office (518)455-3042.
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